These Are the Sonics Games' Best Athletes

Of course, they don't play basketball.

Asking world-renowned practitioners of the improvisational art of break dancing to perform minute-long choreographed sets at NBA arenas is a little like asking Miles Davis to record sitcom ditties. For better or worse, Family Ties didn't get the King of Cool to do its theme song, but the Seattle SuperSonics have the Adidas-sponsored Boom Squad to entertain fans during breaks in the action. And while it may not be the pinnacle of b-boy/b-girl culture, the results can be downright amazing. If you're lucky enough to attend the right game, you'll see Jeromeskee (Jerome Aparis), Twixx (J.D. Rainey), JoeRawk (Joe Stolte), Iron Mike Brysen (Brysen Angeles), Lazy (Samnith Ly), Pit Bull (Tim Soriano), and a rotating cast of dancers—including 6-year-old Jstyles (Jalen Testerman)—do their thing during a couple of time-outs. In this arena, their performances are designed to cater to an audience that's unfamiliar with break dancing and seated a good distance from the action. "Crowds like flips, tricks, and pattern movements," explains Jeromeskee. This contrasts with the traditional b-boy battle, in which a close circle, or cipher, surrounds a dancer or dancers who combine acrobatic moves with more subtle stylings in an improvisational performance that reacts to the accompanying music. Explains Twixx: "We pay attention to whether this person's listening to the words of the music and improvising, rather than just doing windmills and headspins, 'cause we can all do those." Thus, what the group's KeyArena performances lose in subtlety and improvisation, they regain in acrobatics, meaning you'll never see a Boom Squad show that lacks what the group calls its "eye candy"—remarkable displays of strength, agility, and balance. (At a recent game, a fan could be overheard remarking that Twixx was "the best athlete on the floor.") For example, explains Brysen, the Boom Squad has in its arsenal of moves "something called the arm-bar, where two guys are holding each other wrist-to-wrist, and I'll do a flip over that bar. We've got another move called the basket catch where I'll take off out of a flip, and my man Twixx will come behind me and catch me in something that looks like a basket." But the headliner, when his schedule—and, presumably, bedtime—allows, is Jstyles, whose mere appearance invariably sends the audience into a frenzy typically unequaled during actual game action. The 6-year-old's moves include the windmill (in which he spins on his back and hands while swinging his raised torso and splayed legs in a circle above him), the headspin (the biggest crowd-pleaser), and various freezes, in which he remains still in a position, usually upside down, requiring upper body strength not possessed by most gym-going adults. The Boom Squad's members are all drawn from Massive Monkees, a local b-boy/b-girl crew whose competitive success—including a 2004 World B-Boy Championship at Wembley Arena in London, England—and commitment to community service and education led Mayor Greg Nickels to name April 26, 2004, "Massive Monkees Day" and to give the crew a Mayor's Arts Award in 2007. Massive Monkees continue to celebrate their "Day" annually, and this spring will do so for a full weekend, beginning the evening of May 2 at the Vera Project, continuing Saturday at the University of Washington's Student Union Building (HUB), and extending into Sunday (the location for Sunday's events has yet to be announced). "It'll be a full weekend celebrating hip-hop culture in Seattle and around the world," explains JoeRawk, "and probably the best way for people who are interested to learn more." Among the likely attendees are the famous Rock Steady Crew, whose members came together in the late 1970s South Bronx and are considered among break dancing's founders; b-boy/b-girl crews from France and Japan; and various DJs, MCs, and graffiti artists. The crew hopes that the celebration will help bring hip-hop back to its roots, when it was synonymous with not just the world of rap but also with break dancing, DJing, and graffiti art. This seems a quixotic goal, given the natural tendency of art forms to evolve and diverge, and the market forces that lead people to associate the genre with Snoop's izzles and Fergie's semi-clad shimmies. Nevertheless, the crew remains undeterred, viewing its mission in terms of community and integrity, and thus inviting the obvious question: Do the Boom Squad performances, in which audience preferences force them to eschew some of the conventions they hold dear, constitute an unacceptable artistic compromise? They say no, preferring instead to focus on the opportunity to educate. "When we first showed up, the only thing they'd cheer for is headspins," explains JoeRawk. "Now, they understand more. Year by year, we inch them more into our world and what we do." dance@seattleweekly.com For more information on the Massive Monkees, visit www.massivemonkees.com. For classes where you can learn the moves yourself, visit www.jeromeskee.com.

 
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